Looking for a Hero

Catching up with The Batman this weekend – a film that was finally released theatrically in 2022 and promptly became the highest grossing movie so far this year with about $750,000,000 in worldwide ticket sales– was long overdue.

Ostensibly this is because I teach screenwriting and try to assign my students an old or new movie to see most weeks so storytelling and structure in different genres becomes second nature to them.

But truly – that’s merely the surface reason.

OK so this is the reason, right?

The real one is that I believe watching the top-grossing movie of any year allows you to stay informed

But also this..

What this means is that, like it or not, the film the most people go to see in any given year tells you quite a lot about our world — whether you want to know it or not.

So, here’s what I know after watching three hours of The Batman.

1. Robert Pattinson is a finer actor than you think and possesses great hair and seductively angular features.

2. Prosthetics have gotten to the point where, if Warner Bros. demanded it, the technical geniuses behind Hollywood moviemaking could make even ME look like The Batman.  Or Selena Kyle.

And, most importantly –

3. We live in a time where there are no SUPER heroes anymore.

But somehow we managed to have three Spidermans?

In writing classes we teach that no one is 100% altruistic.  Meaning every hero has a little bit of villain in them and every villain has a touch of a hero lurking somewhere in their souls.

The key to villains is they believe deep down what they’re doing is right and justified.

The path to a hero is that the vast majority of the world think their actions are right and justified. 

In our world there are no actionable super majorities to anything anymore.  Certainly not heroes.   I doubt even Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky would get a supermajority worldwide vote if we had a global lie detector.  Nor would Russian President Vladimir Putin achieve worldwide super villain status.

It’d be close for Zelensky

The 2022 probing portrait of Batman tells us everything about our lack of true SUPER HEROES.  It takes the moral ambiguities of the franchise, the conceit of most superhero franchises, and gloomily plants a barely faux hero – our hero – smack dab into heroic territory.

But because the bar is sooo low we think nothing of it.

we did finally see Batman’s makeup, so we’ll give it points for that

He’s an avenger/vigilante with a personal agenda so internal and so intense that he barely feels human.  Certainly he’d have a less than zero potential by the standards of any other era to become anything even approaching a valiant do-gooder.

More importantly, no one around him has much of a moral compass.  And the few who do are either operating with their own secret personal agenda or have not received enough screen time for any real them to properly emerge.

We think Gordon’s good??

This weekend I went to the annual TCM Film Festival in Hollywood and rewatched the 1978 classic Warren Beatty film, Heaven Can Wait.  It was a fantasy comedy remake of the 1941 movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which was based on a 1938 play of the same name.

And it shows – in all the best ways.

The late seventies were enough of a post Watergate time and pre-Ronald Reagan 1980s ME era for the world to still believe that a real life good guy could achieve hero status, inspiring others without giving into temptation himself. 

Classic

Sure, it helped that Warren Beatty at his most handsome played Joe Pendleton, a lifelong second-string quarterback for the L.A. Rams, who mistakenly dies and is escorted to a weigh station to heaven due to his incompetent Guardian Angel.

But when Joe is given a second chance and gets temporarily dropped into the body of a rich, unscrupulous industrialist, who among other things gleefully runs a conglomerate that thinks nothing of drilling oil and polluting entire small towns of people to slightly increase his profit margins (Note: Yes, this film was made in 1978), it seems a recipe for disaster.

Clearly, the good guy will be corrupted by all this money and power.  Because let’s face it, no believable good guy could ever be that heroic with all the oil and money in the world at his personal disposal.  At the very least he’d have to launch his own rocket ship to take him to the edge of outer space or perhaps invent his own super electronic auto before dropping back down to earth to help all the rest of us little people. 

I mean the guy already dresses like a supervillain

He’d have to become a bad guy who takes a stroll on the dark side, before rejoining the merely human race and inspiring them.

Because that’s the only way we’d believe it.

Except, well, no – not in the late 1970s.

Joe never succumbed to darkness.  In fact, he is nothing but good, well intentioned, hard working, loyal and kind, even to the two people he lives with who are trying to kill him in.

His everyman morality wins the day – a morality not born of some past traumas he has overcome but springs from the plain yet solid nice guy that Joe apparently always was.

Not sure I would consider this everyman hair #goodhair

He’s a regular fellow whose superpower is being moral.  A hopeful idea of a movie released during a time when we still had a few smidgeons of hope.

Heaven Can Wait was one of the top five grossing movies the year it was released. Among the others were Grease, National Lampoon’s Animal House and Superman.

It’s easy to sense a pattern here because there was one. 

Even in a year when two dark and raw post Vietnam War movies, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home, triumphed over Heaven Can Wait at the Academy Awards.

See, it’s not that the late 1970s were an uncynical time.  They were just, well, a little less immoral.

Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out for a Hero”

The Porn Prez

Everything about Donald J. Trump is pornographic – his language, his actions, his lifestyle and even his appearance.

This is not so much a judgment as an observation.

Personally, I have nothing against pornography. It can be fun to observe or even to actively indulge in – but with moderation. Much like a great bottle of wine, a pitcher of margaritas, or an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. 

Me, but with trashy reality shows #sorrynotsorry

But to indulge in any one of them on an endless loop daily would profoundly affect one’s psyche – not to mention one’s physical self – and ultimately not in a good way.

For instance, I know I’d put a gun to my head in you strapped me in a chair for hours at a time seven days a week and forced me to stay current (kurrent?) with Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kylie, Kendall and mom Kris.

Still never gets old #momager

The fact that I even know all of their names makes me want to shoot myself.

This is what Trump is doing to the country. Well, half the country.

Okay, 3 million more than half.

Maybe 4 million at this point. Though I might be overestimating. A diet of pornography will do that to you. Everything feels…well, bigger. Or at least more orange.

The point is, the majority of us do want to shoot ourselves. Or someone.

Don’t deny it. The thought has crossed your mind and more than once. Where the (metaphorical?) bullet goes depends on whether you are a masochist or a sadist, a pessimist or an optimist. But the perverse urge to misbehave in some very, very VERY obscene way is there. How could it not be when every day we’re treated to a new episode of Donald Does _____XXXXX_____.

well we know the storm is coming…

Stormy?

Comey?

McCabe?

Mueller?

The FBI?

The Dreamers?

The Justice Department?

High School students?

Or just any Woman in his way or with whom he has had his way? Or not.

Who will be eliminated next? #staytuned #dowehaveto?

Though certainly not the NRA. That much we can take to the bank(s). Which are doing just fine, and probably financing a whole new group of American made steel and aluminum McMansions even as we speak.

Do I sound bitter? Certainly, not! Why would I be? I have health insurance, a job, a 401-K and better interest rates than my parents ever dreamed of. And I’m in the top percentage of earners in the country. What more could I possibly want?   And, have you listened to yourself lately???

Okay, I will admit to some rage.

Nothing to see here

I carry it with me in traffic as I curse the person with Arizona plates driving in front of me in beautiful urban Los Angeles, sure that they voted for Donald Does while living in their own aluminum and steel faux McMansion – which is nestled on the corner of a golf course that doesn’t let in Jews or Black people.

I’m not proud of this. But at least I’m aware. Though I’m not sure if that means anything. Certainly not that I’m even close to being fully #woke. Or want to be.

More than one person in the last year and a half has told me the Trump presidency feels like a dream – either in the sweet or nightmare scenario, depending on what their political stance was at any given moment.

so like.. when can I move to Mars? #hurryupElonMusk

Well, that makes sense. There have been studies that say pornography can greatly increase and/or influence our dreams – even boost our fantasy libidos – because it stimulates dopamine in our brain.  That’s the neurotransmitter responsible for giving us a high. Like a good bottle of wine or a pitcher of margaritas or….

Okay, I wont say it. But I will say this —

In some cases this is a good high and in others this high is WAY TOO GOOD and makes us an addict.

You may say: But Chair, this doesn’t make any sense. Donald Does gives me no pleasure. He doesn’t make me high. He makes me angry. It’s not the same.

Really??? So you never…hate watch???

YES RU

Now I’m not saying our/my addiction to hate watching every move on Donald Does is making us/me into what we/I have become. (Note: And oh yes, reading episode and/or weekly recaps counts too).

Nor am I saying hate watching Keeping Up with Donald Does is NOT making us into just that..

I am only observing/actively indulging in the idea that the Opioid epidemic is not the only insidious addiction currently ripping apart the fabric of our country.

And that we might consider in this newest class of Opioids, the only solution is to refuse to buy it. And then come together to take the damn thing off the market, at which time it will be destroyed (Note: Either by us or by self-immolation) and/or put under lock and key for good

Think of it as a human assault weapon, not a toxic reality show, that has somehow managed to cleverly masquerade itself as porn.

Florence + The Machine – “Kiss With a Fist”